Case Study: When Immigration and Divorce are Intertwined — Byrchina & Astrakhantsev
Elena Bychina and Boris Astrakhantsev met in Russia and formed a relationship. Astrakhantsev is a United States citizen and flew home after meeting Bychina. Eventually, Astrakhantsev proposed to Bychina during a trip in Thailand. On December 29th, 2014, Bychina entered the United States on a K-1 vise (better known as a “fiancée visa.) The two married on March 9th, 2015. On June 8th of 2015, Astrakhantsev executed an Affidavit of Support where he promised to support Bychina with an income level of 125% above the poverty line at minimum, and to reimburse government agencies for certain means-tested benefits paid to petitioner.
Bychina petitioned to divorce Astrakhantsev and filed a count for a breach of a federal contract. Bychina alleged that Astrakhantsev breached his promise to her under the Affidavit of Support for the fiancée visa because he canceled her medical insurance and failed to support her financially. Bychina was a full-time student at Du Page and did not work or was expecting to gain full-time employment. Astrakhantsev worked as an independent-contractor truck driver for an interstate transportation company. Bychina would have to wait an additional two years to become a citizen due to instituting the divorce action. Due to the Affidavit of Support, Astrakhantsev was required to financially support Bychina until she became a citizen, therefore having to pay the attorney fees and costs. Astrakhantsev counter petitioned that the marriage was invalid due to fraud and claimed that he was induced into the marriage, merely so Bychina could become a United States citizen.
The trial occurred March 13th, 2020. Astrakhantsev’s attorney showed, but Bychina failed to present evidence. Bychina was the only witness to testify. The court dissolved their marriage yet, declined Bychina’s request for the breach-of-contract count and advised she seek resolution in a federal court. The court decided an award of maintenance for Bychina was not justified, and the court would review maintenance for her in 18 months, wherein it would assess steps Bychina took to become self-supporting. The court denied Astrakhantsev’s request for maintenance and rejected his petition to invalidate the marriage. Bychina testified she had a medical procedure that made her unable to conceive a child, soon after Astrakhantsev told her he no longer wanted a relationship with her. Astrakhantsev failed to pay rent for Bychina, which landed him in indirect civil contempt of court; the court found he was no longer working and had medical issues.” He failed to make payments towards the purge and failed to appear in court. The court did not find the true nature of Astrakhantsev’s medical condition or his income. The court determined that Bychina had the ability to work more hours than she did and did so through employment of Uber and Lyft.
The trial court determined the federal court was more fit for the case due to the unclear employment status of both parties and did not wish to inhibit Bychina from seeking relief in federal court. Bychina’s issue on the appeal was the trial court refused to address the merits in her breach-of-contract count. She asserts the court of general jurisdiction had no discretion to decline review of her action to enforce the affidavit of support. She requests that the court reverses and review the merits of her claim. She argues that it is unreasonable for her to file and prosecute a separate action in federal court to enforce the breached contractual obligation. Bychina explains that separate actions are an undue burden due to financial and cause an unreasonable delay in immigrants’ ability to receive support. The trial court claimed that the federal court was more appropriate because the trial court did not decide the maintenance issue, required more time to assess it, and wished to allow petitioner to seek relief in federal court on her contract claim before returning to the trial court for the court’s maintenance determination.
Eventually, the judgement of the circuit of court of Du Page County is reversed and the cause is remanded for further proceedings, meaning the trial court must hear the issue of the breach of contract. This is due to there being no substantial argument that a federal court can assess a claim for breach of an obligation under Form I-864. Additionally, the circumstances do not warrant declining Bychina’s request.